Over the years I have received a lot of emails and Facebook testimonials about how much people like my Mighty Maca® Plus superfoods drink, and I have also received some pretty interesting questions about maca, the fantastic healing root that my superfoods blend is based on.
Today I thought I’d take a moment and pass along the answers to those intriguing questions, getting to the "root" of maca's true menopausal health benefits!… And please comment below on other information that you might want to hear about maca.
"In my decades as a physician and researcher, and in working with thousands of women, I have found maca to be beneficial in addressing hormonal imbalances, lack of energy, menstrual irregularities, and PMS, fertility and libido issues, and a variety of menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, fatigue and depression."
So let’s talk more in-depth about maca’s many health benefits and why I focused on maca when I initially developed my superfoods blend.
In this article, I’ll discuss what the research says as well as what I and other doctors have seen in our own clinical experience as to how maca has alleviated quality-of-life affecting symptoms in thousands of women (and men).
It is worth mentioning that while I will be focusing more on women and the menopausal benefits of maca, much of the article and research provided is applicable to all ages as well as relevant to men.
Packed With Beautiful Nutrients
It was while in Peru that I initially discovered maca, in particular, the species Lepidium meyenii. This is the actual maca species protected by the Peruvian government as a key national heritage crop. The interesting looking root is grown in the central Andes at extremely high altitudes and in challenging conditions. The soil is rocky and can only support healthy crops every few years. The weather consists of low humidity with harsh winds, extreme day/night temperature changes, and solar radiation.
Local growers have had to deal with these extreme conditions since before the time of the Incas, and today Peruvians still enjoy maca as a daily farm to table staple.
Peruvians value it as a medicinal and therapeutic herb, holding long-standing beliefs relating to its ability to enhance libido and fertility!
While I was in Peru it seemed like “Try maca” was the answer to pretty much any symptom or health concern! Fertility, digestion, fatigue, stress, sexual dysfunction (erection problems, sperm motility, arousal)…it didn’t seem to matter, the Peruvians’ answer to that issue was always, “Try maca”!
When I later researched maca I found it to be kind of a mini-superfoods blend of its own! It is packed with protein, fatty acids, essential amino acids, fiber, vitamins, and minerals (zinc, magnesium, copper, potassium, calcium, and iron), and glucosinolates (found in cruciferous veggies and thought to have anti-cancer benefits).
The fatty acids are good for the heart and also beneficial in stabilizing blood glucose levels. Maca contains alkaloids and some unique compounds called macamides, thought to be beneficial that have only been found in the maca plant. It is also a great source of phytonutrients.
Maca contains arginine which stimulates nitric oxide production (the same way Viagra works), likely why it is sometimes called the Peruvian Viagra.
The maca plant also contains plant sterols that appear to influence responses within the endocrine system, resulting in the body better able to regulate and achieve hormonal balance. Much more on that below.
The Right Maca For You Is Pure, Safe And Certified
Wow, maca sounds great so let’s all go out and buy some!
Yes, maca has a lot of health benefits, but you really do need to be careful when purchasing it to ensure you are buying a safe and quality product.
First, you need to buy Peruvian Maca.
Why? because Peruvian harvests of Lepidium meyenii are GMO-free as GMO is currently banned by the Peruvian government.
You should also buy organic. Note that I only purchase maca that has been certified as organic for my superfoods blend, and you should also require that certification. I always suggest people scrutinize labels.
The place of origin for any maca you purchase is an important distinction, as these days, more and more maca on the market is coming from other countries such as China showing a grower in Peru, where farms are often a family affair).
There is kind of a black market for Peruvian maca seeds and roots, with smuggling occurring for huge profits. The issue with farming in other countries is that the unregulated growing methods may be introducing fertilizers, pesticides, pollutants (heavy metals) and even GMOs.
My maca supplier once showed me a picture of a maca root from China, and you could see it was quite stunted. I’m not sure if it is because it isn’t grown at the appropriate elevation, or whether the chemicals they add for fertilizer and pesticide control is to blame, but you could very much see the difference!
And while on the topic of chemicals and such, the Peruvian maca I purchase is also tested for heavy metals, fungi, and bacteria. So important.
There are different varieties (phenotypes or colors) of the maca root that are grown, primarily the yellow, black and red root have been studied but there are about 13 color variations that have been identified. Research has found some differences in both the makeup and health benefits associated with different colors, such as black maca being associated with the best result relating to spermatogenesis, fatigue, and memory.
Nutritionally, the content of the different phenotypes appears similar.
Most maca fields, however, contain multiple variations of the plant, and cross-contamination is common. So if you were living in Peru and harvesting maca for your own use, you would have many root color variations in your field and in what you consume.
The maca in my blend is naturally harvested, to include all colors (and all of the combined benefits!) of the roots found within the particular organic farm as a whole, just like the Peruvian people have been eating it for centuries.
I’ve read at least one study that indicated the differences in the soil found in the Andes may provide improved mineral uptake and plant growth, perhaps adding another reason to opt for Peruvian Maca.
There are studies showing maca is safe when used on a long-term basis. Since it is typically consumed by the Peruvian people beginning in childhood, long-term consumption has been studied and has been associated with higher scores in various health markers including lower rates of bone fractures, a lower body mass index, lower scores of symptoms of mountain sickness, and lower systolic blood pressure. Note, too, that the populations studied have eaten a mixture of root colors.
As An Adaptogen, Maca Helps Your Body Deal With Stress And Hormone Imbalances
Probably in response to surviving its own harsh growing environment, Peruvian maca has been shown to have adaptogenic properties. (1) (2)
What does maca being an adaptogen mean for you? Well, for centuries it has been able to adapt, to resist disease and environmental stresses. The good news?
"Maca is able to pass along its adaptogenic properties to you as well! As an adrenal adaptogen, it nourishes and helps your body deal with chronic stress, including both mental and physical stressors. Additionally, it helps your body adapt to hormone imbalances, whether those be with your sex hormones, thyroid or elsewhere in your endocrine system."
I use my Mighty Maca Plus superfoods drink in all of my women’s restorative health programs for this reason!
The adrenals are typically my first focus in solving any number of health symptoms and conditions.
We know that stress and its effects on our adrenals can exacerbate hormone imbalances throughout our bodies, including impacting our thyroid health (or even triggering thyroid diseases such as Hashimoto’s).
Maca Improves Menopause Symptoms Without Causing Estrogen Activity
One of the questions I have received about maca is regarding whether it is estrogenic in nature.
A lot of women want to use more natural alternatives to HRT (estrogen or hormone replacement therapy) for menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, fatigue, brain fog, and weight gain.
Those of you with thyroid issues may also have estrogen dominance concerns.
Even the men out there may have issues relating to the amount of excess estrogen exposure we all get these days, whether that be through eating hormone-infused meats or exposure to environmental endocrine disruptors (this is the estrogen that can cause of man-boobs!).
But the research has not shown maca to be estrogenic; in fact, just the opposite.
The components contained within maca seem to be able to regulate estrogen levels in some yet not fully understood manner. The consumption of maca has been shown to balance hormone levels while alleviating symptoms of menopause such as night sweats and hot flashes. (3) (4)
Research has found that the maca root doesn’t contain plant estrogens or any other phytohormones. These types of compounds, as are found in soy, are viewed as hormone stimulating or estrogenic, and can cause challenges for some estrogen sensitive individuals.
Think of maca as being “hormone regulating or balancing” versus “hormone stimulating”. Not every woman needs more estrogen and not all of us can metabolize it as well as others, so this is an important point.
Rather than stimulating increased estrogen activity maca seems to have the effect of promoting optimal functioning of the hypothalamus and the pituitary, resulting in improvements across the endocrine glands.
Maca should be viewed as “non-hormonal” in nature. Instead, maca should be viewed as exhibiting hormone-regulatory properties across a wide range of age groups of women and men (5). It seems to induce the hormone balance that is needed for a given individual, specific to a person’s gender, age, and metabolic stage.
Some researchers also feel this hypothalamus/pituitary theory may explain why maca’s effects don’t just impact the sexual hormones (ovaries and testes) like seen in rat studies, but also acts on the adrenals (providing greater vitality and energy), the pineal gland (improved sleep!) as well as the thyroid.
The endocrine glands just work better…perhaps the Peruvians were right, just “Try maca!”!
Studies certainly show that this balancing of hormones seen with maca consumption alleviates many of the symptoms – both physiological and psychological – experienced by women in the perimenopause and in menopause, in particular.
A study on perimenopausal women showed that maca resulted in a number of significant changes in hormone levels and such biochemical indices as body weight, diastolic blood pressure, and an increase in HDL. Symptoms of discomfort were also assessed and it was found that maca use significantly alleviated such perimenopausal symptoms by 74%-87%. Symptoms included: lack of quality sleep pattern, depression, nervousness, heart palpitations and frequency of night sweats and hot flashes. Researchers concluded that maca could show potential as a non-hormonal alternative to HRT (estrogen hormone replacement therapy). (6)
The Peruvian Viagra! Fertility Sexual Function, And Libido
Maca’s adaptogenic profile and its ability to regulate estrogen and other vital hormone levels supports reproductive health and has been shown to improve fertility, sexual function, and libido. There have been numerous studies, both animal and clinical..that support maca’s various effects in this area.
As an avid researcher, I love research! However...we’re all biologically unique so it is worth noting that you can read dozens and dozens of studies about maca (as with many herbal and alternative therapies), but many may not be directly applicable to you. Some of the studies are either small or narrowly defined in terms of participants (i.e. sex, age, co-existing conditions, etc.) so may just not be directly relevant to you. But you can see patterns of effect and benefits that may apply to you.
The important point is to do what works for you. Do what makes your particular body and hormone blueprint feel better. As a long-time physician, my approach has always been to try the most simple and natural solutions first, thus my love for something like maca. You can try it, starting at a low dose, and see how it works for you.
For those concerned about pre-existing estrogen sensitivities or other underlying health issues, talk with your physician about whether maca might be a good thing for you to try. Your doctor can monitor your hormone levels should they feel it is necessary, to see how various dosages are helping you. Note: We do not recommend you use Mighty Maca - or any maca product - while pregnant or breastfeeding, due to its detoxifying nature.
Many of my peers and I have seen the positive effect of maca (and my superfoods blend), across thousands of patients, clients, and online community members. I provide my superfoods blend to physicians who not only use it themselves but who provide the product to their patients and communities. It is also a core part of my Keto-Green diet and lifestyle program because it is just a great way – an easy and natural way – to kick-start yourself to greater health.
So having said that here are just a few examples to help illustrate why I love maca in regards to sexual health!
- In one study maca treatment was found to improve libido in women having sexual dysfunction as a result of taking selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medication. It was also found to alleviate sexual dysfunction at some doses. Women described more enjoyable sexual experiences and more frequent sexual activity. Yes!
- A follow-up study to that one included men and also found significant improvements in the men’s libido at certain dosages. Another study showed that treatment with maca improved sexual desire in men.
- A study focused on menopause women found that maca consumption lowered measures of sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women (independent of estrogenic activity!). It also found that maca reduced psychological symptoms including depression and anxiety.
- In another study, maca consumption improved sperm production and sperm motility in adult men. There are also several animal studies that focus on improvements seen with sperm production. (7)
- The aphrodisiac powers of Maca for men and women were actually identified in a literature review here.
Still not convinced? I have a number of testimonials for my maca superfoods blend on my website as well as a few beautiful blogs relating to Mighty Maca and fertility (read how Mighty Maca may affect progesterone levels, naturally) and Mighty Maca and libido You can also read my previous article on the libido effects of maca and another favorite...chocolate! Check them out!
Maca Also Improves Energy And Mood
One final question that I get asked is about whether maca can help with those terrible mood-swings and more serious symptoms like depression.
Well, several studies have shown that maca may reduce symptoms of depression. I’ll briefly mention a few of these. In one small study depression was reduced in postmenopausal women. In another study, maca reduced the symptoms of anxiety and depression (and lowered sexual dysfunction!) in postmenopausal women.
Given that maca is an adrenal adaptogen and supports a healthier stress response it makes total sense that it would help regulate mood and energy throughout the day.
Mighty Maca Plus! So Much More That Your Body Will Love!
Gelatinized versus raw?
Along with the root color question, I sometimes get asked me about what form of maca is best (tablets, liquid, powder, gel or raw).
To a certain extent, I think this is a matter of preference, but I will say that I chose raw powder over gelatinized for my superfoods blend.
While many of the studies have used gel tablets, I feel that the raw form better preserves the beneficial enzymes and nutrients. Gelatinized maca is heated at high temperatures to remove the plant’s starch, but that impacts the enzymes and other beautiful components of the root in my opinion!
As one example, glucosinolates (supportive of breast health and estrogen detox) are an important benefit found in maca and glucosinolates have been found to be sensitive to heating.
Unfortunately, I haven’t found a specific study that actually has measured the amount of degradation of glucosinolates before, during and after gelatinization (it also would likely be dependent on the temperature of the heating process and quality of the maca, to begin with). Nor have I found comparative data in the research showing the number of glucosinolates in non-gelatinized versus gelatinized maca.
So instead I have chosen to work with a supplier to get a version of raw maca that is particularly high in glucosinolates and other nutrients. The maca I use in my superfoods blend contains around 2.4% glucosinolates.
Again, a lot of what you are consuming has to do with the quality of the original producer (and remember you want to see that organic maca certification!). There is research that shows that maca batches from different producers significantly vary in the amounts of sterols, macaene, macamides and glucosinolates they contain so you really want a quality sourced maca. (8) (9)
Some people have asked if the gelatinized form may help with digestion.
Over the many years my product has been on the market I have only found a small handful of people ever having had an issue with the raw, organic maca I use. I’ve even had severe celiacs who have not only tolerated Mighty Maca Plus but who have done really well on it (remember Mighty Maca Plus is gluten-free as well).
I have heard of issues such as indigestion relating to various other maca products that use the raw form. My comment relating to those products is that I’d want to know what else the maca might contain; so does it contain impurities, and has it been tested for fungi, that sort of thing. I know that my own superfoods blend contains certified organic maca that has been also tested for impurities.
I also know that the other 40+ ingredients in my superfoods blend are all beneficial and synergistic with maca. And maybe that is why I don’t see this type of sensitivity to my product.
Maybe it is the “Plus” that comes with my maca blend.
A few examples of what I am talking about is that my maca blend contains its own digestive enzymes, including bromelain. Bromelain is a great digestive aid and also may be preventative with cancer, diabetes, and even various cardiovascular diseases.
My blend also contains anti-inflammatories such as mangosteen and turmeric, along with antioxidants and so many other helpful ingredients such as flaxseed. We know that the extra Omega 3 fats found in flaxseed can be helpful for those with estrogen issues (I know a lot of women having thyroid issues have this need). Research has shown that flaxseed may be protective for certain types of cancer, especially in post-menopausal women; flaxseed may be able to shift estrogen metabolism to less cancer-promoting forms.
My blend contains additional fiber too (also good to get rid of excess estrogen and flush other toxins from your system).
It was because of all of the above natural health benefits, along with the research validating that maca is safe and effective, that I used maca as the cornerstone ingredient of my own green superfoods drink. Mighty Maca Plus is a synergistic blend of ingredients including those that provide the health benefits of alkalinity, along with digestive health benefits, blood sugar balancing, and the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions of some 40+ additional ingredients.
P.S. Read this independent review by VeganLiftz